Boa Constrictors one are the most commonly kept snakes, and with good reason. They tend to make excellent pet as they are docile, easy to handle, and have modest care requirements. They are also generally good feeders, usually taking defrosted rodents without trouble.
Some boas however, particularly wild caught specimens, can be problematic to wean onto defrosted prey. Having a snake which refuses to eat can be extremely frustrating, but there is usually no need for concern. If the boa is otherwise healthy it can go for considerable amounts of time between meals.
If your snake is refusing to eat, monitor its weight, and follow these tips to help get your boa feeding readily and easily.
1. Feed appropriatively sized prey: All species of boa can be fed exclusively on rodents in captivity. They type and size of prey is entirely dependent on the size of the snake. Neonates may be started on pinky (day old) mice, and the prey size should gradually increased as the snake grows. Small, through medium, to large mice should be followed by rats, and even rabbits for larger boas. The key is to offer prey no larger than the girth of the snake to avoid training the boa's digestive system.
2. Feed your boa at regular intervals: How regularly you offer prey items will depend on the age and size of your boa. For most species, neonates should be fed weekly, while adults can be fed fortnightly since it takes them longer to digest the larger meal. Boa with slow metabolisms however, such as the Emerald Tree Boas, only need feeding every 21 days.
3. Defrost the rodents safely: While pinkies and small mice can be safely defrosted at room temperature, larger items will take longer, increasing the chance of bacterial growth. To safely defrost prey items, place in the refrigerator overnight, sealed in a plastic tub. Before feeding, warm them slightly for 30 minutes under a lamp, or near a radiator. Always ensure that prey is thoroughly defrosted, and avoid using a microwave which will partially cook the prey.
4. Tempt your boa with defrosted prey first: If your boa will not take defrosted prey on its own, try leaving it undisturbed in the vivarium overnight. Another trick is to try leaving the prey, and the snake, in an unfurnished plastic tub for an hour. If none of these methods work, you should try 'tempting' the boa with the prey. Either use a long pair of forceps and dangle the prey in front of the snake, or drop the rodent on the floor of the vivarium, and gently wiggle it with a stick. With a little patience this is often enough to get a boa eating. 5.The 'bait and switch' method: If the above methods have failed, you can try using a freshly filled mouse. Dangle it with the forceps, and try to get the boa to strike. Once in feeding mode, you can swap in a defrosted rodent.
6. Offering freshly killed prey: If, after a number of attempts with the above methods, you really can not get your boa eating defrosted rodents, try offering one which is freshly killed. If your snake takes the prey, try offering a small defrosted rodent immediately afterwards. Often, once the boa is already in feeding mode, it will take the defrost, and once a boa has eaten one defrosted rodent, it will take more in the future. If this fails at first, the next time you feed the snake, hold a defrosted rodent against the half swallowed fresh kill. This can be enough to trick the boa into eating both, and again, once they have taken a single defrost it is easier to feed more in the future.
7. Offering live prey: Only if all of the above methods have failed should live prey be offered. A live rodent has sharp teeth and claws, and can seriously injure a snake. Never leave live prey in with your boa for more than 15 minutes, and never unattended. Keep a close eye and be ready to remove the rodent quickly if necessary.
By following the above methods you should be able to tempt just about any boa to eat, and slowly to wean them onto defrosted food. Once taking defrost, try to keep them on it without absolutely necessary.
In the rare cases where all the above methods fail, and a boa is losing weight, it may be necessary to force feed. This is a stressful, and dangerous method of feeding which should only be attempted by experienced herpetoculturists and is beyond the scope of this article. If you get to the stage where force feeding is necessary, consult your veterinarian, or find an experienced keeper via your local herpetology center. However, with patience and the methods outlined above you¡¯re unexpectedly to ever need to resort to that.